[Nigeria Report] Jonathan under pressure to firmly deal with Boko Haram

Boko Haram's Logo (photo: NAN)

Nigerian President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is coming under intense international pressure to firm up his administration’s handling of the Boko Haram violence, which is now beginning to threaten his chances of staying in power beyond 2015. Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist militia that is wedging a war against the Government of Nigeria and others who do not subscribe to their idea that Western culture is bad.

This comes as indications emerged that the religious sect had issued fresh warnings to a Nigerian High Commission in a Southern African country, threatening attack if the authorities failed to comply with unstated demands.

An email sent to the High Commission, whose newly-appointed High Commissioner of South-South extraction is yet to assume duties, made a passive mention of “compensation,” otherwise what happened to some media houses in Nigeria would befall the Commission.

The Nigerian Guardian reported that Sources close to the High Commission disclosed that the matter had been “transmitted” to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria and those officials “are taking the threat very seriously,” by observing safety and security measures.

Informed US sources disclosed that the menace of Boko Haram is one of the issues that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking to raise personally with President Jonathan with whom she has asked for a meeting early next month, as she prepares for what looks like her valedictory tour of selected African states.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Photo: Guardian Newspaper)

As the Obama administration wraps up its first term ahead of November polls, it is believed that the wife of the former American President Clinton would not be part of Obama’s second term if he wins. The US State Department is expected to announce the African tour later this week, and it is expected to take Hillary Clinton to Abuja and few other African capitals, but the Nigerian meeting is said to be high on the US agenda, as it is in other western capitals.

While the US government has named three Boko Haram leaders as terrorists, there are serious internal pressures from the Republicans in Congress and some other arms of the US government to declare the entire Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO)

Dependable sources hinted that the US government might buckle under the pressure from inside and name Boko Haram an FTO if, by the end of this year, President Jonathan has not effectively brought down the Boko Haram menace.

Already, virtually every security agency in the US Federal Government is said to be supporting the move to designate the entire Boko Haram as an FTO.

According to the Nigerian Guardian Newpaper, these agencies include the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Department of Justice.

The State Department is virtually the only unit of the US government actively holding down the designation right now, since it is the one empowered to do so. A personal Clinton meeting with Jonathan early in August is expected to detail the internal workings of the US government agencies on the matter.

But it was also gathered that the Nigerian government, especially its Embassy in the US, continues to strongly question the plan to declare Boko Haram an FTO, arguing that the US did not do the same in Niger Delta during the menace of the militants, which the Nigerian government eventually ended.

Besides, the Nigerian government had argued that designating Boko Haram an FTO would be counter-productive and would also expose ordinary Nigerians traveling internationally to undue and possibly invasive body searches at western airports.

Also, the Nigerian government is asking for some conclusive proof that Boko Haram is linked with other global terrorists like al-Qaeda beyond calculated suspicions.

This is expected to be one of the important issues that Clinton wanted to raise with Jonathan in the planned early August meeting in Aso Rock, as views (even in the US Congress) are also focusing on whether, or not, Jonathan presidency can survive the Boko Haram and other opposition beyond 2015.

In fact, there was an open declaration by a Republican Congressman earlier this month at a Congressional hearing on Nigeria, questioning whether Jonathan can surmount all its current oppositions.

Republican Congressman, Chris Smith, the chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, while addressing the hearing in the presence of representatives of the Obama administration said, “the questions our government must answer are: will this government — Jonathan’s presidency in Nigeria — withstand its opposition and what can we do to help Nigeria to remain Africa’s essential nation?

Smith openly raised those questions at the oversight congressional hearing held July 10 by the House sub-committee on the issue of Boko Haram. It was at the hearing that Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oristejafor also challenged the US government on what he called hypocrisy of not declaring the entire Boko Haram as terrorist group.

Members of Boko Haram chant war songs while dancing (Photo: NAN)

Although there are also important economic issues that Clinton is expected to raise during his imminent visit to Abuja, sources in the US government point to the current sentiments about the Jonathan government in the US congress as critical, partly compelling Clinton’s desire to have a personal meeting with President Jonathan in Aso Rock early August.

While addressing the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP meeting July 17 in Abuja, the Nigerian President himself addressed the issue of opposition to the PDP-led government, saying, “people want to drown us, and you see, most of the statements being made by these people is because they know PDP is a very robust party.”

According to him, “It is our duty to continue to resist and tell Nigerians the correct things we are doing and we believe that if we do not have a party as robust as the PDP, probably, the present Republic would have collapsed, because we witnessed what happened in the First Republic.”

So, in western capital too, based on reports from their Nigeria-based diplomats, some are already edging their bets in the seemingly murky waters of Nigeria’s politics ahead of the 2015 elections.

When the US Congressman Smith raised the questions, seeking for a focus by the US government, he traced the issue to the emergence of Jonathan in 2010.

According to him: “When Yar’Adua finally died in May 2010; Power brokers only accepted Jonathan to be sworn in as president because he was not considered a threat and likely wouldn’t run for reelection. However, Jonathan surprised them by announcing in September 2010 that he had consulted widely throughout Nigeria and would run for president.”

The Congressman from New Jersey added “The issues of excessive government force in the Niger Delta, northern Nigeria and other areas of the country over several past governments in Nigeria has fed resentment. Combined with the northern political opposition, the increasing resistance by minorities and the civil society political revolt, the Jonathan Administration faces significant forces arrayed against it. The questions our government must answer are: Will this government withstand its opposition and what can we do to help Nigeria to remain Africa’s essential nation?

US State Department sources added that when the Jonathan-Clinton meeting happens in Abuja, the US Secretary of State will seek to urge the Nigerian president to address the Boko Haram concerns.

Clinton’s deputy on Africa, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, had said recently exactly what the US wants Nigeria to do on Boko Haram, perhaps to avoid an FTO designation from the US: “Boko Haram thrives because of social and economic problems in the north that the government must also address. A coordinated government effort to provide responsible, accountable governance to all Nigerians, while creating opportunities for economic growth, will diminish the political space in which Boko Haram operates.”

Uwalaka Temple U.B Intern Reporter news@theasian.asia

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